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Sehwag sets the record straight

If someone had told Virender Sehwag three years ago that he would become a successful Test opener, he would have thrown his head back and laughed.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2004 15:43 IST

If someone had told Virender Sehwag three years ago that he would become a successful Test opener, he would have thrown his head back and laughed.

Known for his explosive shots and kamikaze approach, it seemed he had little chance of getting the nod from purists.

But the 25-year-old, nicknamed 'poor man's Tendulkar' for his similarity of shots to team mate Sachin Tendulkar, put one past his mentor on Monday by becoming the first Indian to score a Test triple-century during the first Test against Pakistan.

Playing his 21st match, Sehwag broke Vangipurappu Laxman's Indian record of 281, set against Australia in Calcutta in 2001. Tendulkar's Test best is 241 not out.

He also silenced critics who felt he was too aggressive and technically unsound to handle the new ball regularly.

Sehwag's 309 came off 375 balls in 531 minutes and put him on a list featuring Don Bradman, Garfield Sobers and Wally Hammond,

He is only the 17th batsman in history to cross 300 and the first since Australian Matthew Hayden scored the world record 380 against Zimbabwe last year.

But Sehwag's aura is not just about how many runs he makes — it is how he makes them.

He goes hell for leather after the bowling in any circumstances, unruffled and unfazed.

"I'm just built that way. I never feel any pressure," he has said. "I go out and play my natural game and nobody has ever told me to do otherwise."

CAPTURED IMAGINATION

Sehwag still has a long way to go before he can be compared with Tendulkar, who has 33 Test centuries and 37 more in one-dayers but he has captured the imagination of India like his idol did 14 years ago against Pakistan as a curly-haired 16-year-old.

For Sehwag, the son of a contractor in a flour mill, the journey to fame was not smooth.

A cricket fanatic ever since he was a child, Sehwag's heroics as a youngster were limited to street matches in his native Najafgarh, a Delhi suburb.

It was only after his matriculation exams that the 15-year-old could take up the game seriously, playing for his school and then breaking into the Delhi under-19 team.

He used to travel by bus for over two hours to the Ferozeshah Kotla stadium dreaming that one day he would have a car of his own.

Even his start to international cricket was a disaster, scoring one run and going for 35 in three overs against Pakistan in Mohali in 1999 on his one-day debut.

But his breakthrough came when captain Saurav Ganguly, playing without the injured Tendulkar in a triangular one-day tournament in Sri Lanka in 2001, asked Sehwag to open.

India needed a big win against New Zealand to qualify for the final but the Kiwis piled up nearly 300 on a slow wicket and things looked ominous.

Sehwag, uncannily resembling Tendulkar, hammered the Kiwi pacemen to all corners of the park, cracking seven consecutive fours at one stage while racing to a match-winning hundred off 69 balls, the seventh fastest in history.

A century in his debut Test against South Africa at Bloemfontein, another against England at Trent Bridge as an opener and a swashbuckling 195 at Melbourne against Australia last year have become part of the growing Sehwag folklore.

Monday's innings has taken his glory to even grander proportions.

First Published: Mar 29, 2004 13:20 IST